Wellington school makes impassioned plea against bid to build new liquor store nearby

Members of the Te Aro School Board of Trustees are opposing a proposed new bottle store near their school in Wellington, ...
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Members of the Te Aro School Board of Trustees are opposing a proposed new bottle store near their school in Wellington, fearing it will see an increase in anti-social behavior and vandalism of school property.

Repeated vandalism of playground equipment and an abundance of glass found on school grounds has prompted a plea from a Wellington primary school to stop a new bottle store opening nearby.

Te Aro School is just 350 metres, or a five-minute walk, from Aro Liquor, a proposed store that would be the only one in the suburb selling ready-to-drink alcohol and spirits.

Manjula Patel and Vinod Hira's application to convert their business, Aro Fruit Supply, into a liquor outlet is currently before the Wellington District Licensing Committee.

Aro Fruit supply in Wellington, which owner Manjula Patel has applied to convert into a bottle shop.
LUCY SWINNEN/STUFF

Aro Fruit supply in Wellington, which owner Manjula Patel has applied to convert into a bottle shop.

A total of 55 objections have been lodged against the proposal, including one from Te Aro School's Board of Trustees.

READ MORE:
* Aro Valley residents speak out against liquor store bid
* Police accused of drumming up opposition to Wellington liquor store application
* Police, regional health fight to curtail closing hours for Wellington liquor stores in 'risk areas'

"We are concerned risks to the health, safety and well-being of children at our school," trustee Daniel Brown said.

Manjula Patel at her old store, also in Wellington's Aro Valley, in 2015. (FILE PHOTO)
JEFF McEWAN/CAPTURE STUDIOS

Manjula Patel at her old store, also in Wellington's Aro Valley, in 2015. (FILE PHOTO)

Brown, whose son attends the school, described the area as already being "high risk" and noted several instances when playground equipment had been damaged overnight or stolen from the grounds.

"We suspect that a lot of this damage is alcohol-related, and broken glass and cans are often found, he said.

"Fires have also been lit and our caretaker has had to clean up vomit and other 'fluids' ... I don't want my child, and the children I represent on the board, subjected to that."

Manjula Patel's two Aro St businesses. She wants to convert the fruit and vegetable shop into a bottle shop.
LUCY SWINNEN/STUFF

Manjula Patel's two Aro St businesses. She wants to convert the fruit and vegetable shop into a bottle shop.

A few years ago the school, led by principal Sue Clement, made the decision to move its disco from the community hall in Aro Park because of health and safety concerns for the children.

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Brown was one of two objectors who spoke on the second day of the hearing alongside Medical Officer of Health Andrea Boston, Police Sergeant Chris Muir and Wellington City Council licensing inspector Phil Wheelan.

Muir asked Hira, one of the applicants, whether he believed alcohol-related harm would increase should the new liquor licence be granted. Hira said "no".

Additionally, he didn't see an increased availability of spirits and ready-to-drink beverages having any impact on the community.

But Hira did say he was willing to close the store at certain times before and after school if the committee advised.

The hours were an element of concern for all seven objectors who were heard over the first two days of the hearing. But Wheelan, on behalf of the council, had not made any objections based on that.

He did say Aro Valley was known as a vulnerable area, as stated in the committee's previous decision to grant Patel's Superette a license to sell beer and wine earlier this year.

The hearing panel of Sir Douglas Kidd, Kate Thomson and Mary Hubble adjourned the hearing on Friday in anticipation of another day of arguments, to be held sometime before December.

 - Stuff

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